The Contemporary Museum will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2010 by inviting 20 national and international artists to participate in Project 20, a year-long series of exhibitions, performances, and newly-commissioned site-specific projects, announced museum Executive Director Irene Hofmann. Each of the artists participating in Project 20 was selected by one of 20 guest curators who each played a significant role in shaping the Contemporary Museum’s history, including past directors, curators, and artists.

Participation Nation: Art Invites Input

Project 20 will begin on Sunday, January 17, 2010 with Participation Nation: Art Invites Input, an exhibition featuring three artists and artist collaboratives whose works invite museum visitors and community members to contribute content. Participation Nation is an interactive exhibition experience with new works by Finishing School (Los Angeles), Neighborhood Public Radio (Albuquerque, Chicago, San Francisco), and Lee Mingwei (New York).

Lee Mingwei: Conceptual artist Lee Mingwei creates installations that often depend on shared experiences and collaborations between himself and the public. For his Contemporary Museum piece, The Pantheon Project, Baltimoreans applied to create shrines to honor people or institutions with which they share a deep personal connection. Lee will select 20 applicants to transform plain wooden boxes into memorials using mementos and ephemera. Museum visitors will then be invited to leave their own devotional materials at these displays. Together, the shrines and public offerings will present a unique and moving portrait of community values.

Finishing School: For Project 20, Los Angeles art collective Finishing School will unveil GO, a project inviting the residents of Baltimore to explore, document, and share the unique details of their neighborhoods through photographs, interviews, and objects. Visitors who wish to participate will receive instructions for the project and can borrow digital cameras from the museum. As visitors become participants in the project, their submissions will continually be added to the installation creating an evolving story about the diversity and issues facing Baltimore’s neighborhoods.

Neighborhood Public Radio: Founded by artists Jon Brummit, Lee Montgomery, and Michael Trigilio, Neighborhood Public Radio (NPR) was created to explore local, low-watt and internet radio as an alternative media platform for community members. Using low frequency FM radio transmitters and streaming online, the artists will use the voices of Baltimore musicians, visual artists, activists, journalists, and community members to tell the stories of the city. With a temporary radio station set up in the galleries, NPR’s installation will also be an open platform for visitors to broadcast their own programs, music and conversations.

Curators of Participation Nation include former Contemporary Museum Executive Directors Gary Sangster (1997-2002) and Thom Collins (2004-2005), and current museum Executive Director Irene Hofmann. Neighborhood Public Radio was selected for the exhibition by Sangster, Mingwei by Collins, and Finishing School by Hofmann.

On view concurrent with Participation Nation will be a nationally-touring community-outreach project by Mel Chin entitled The Fundred Dollar Bill Project. The Contemporary Museum will be an official production center of “Fundred Dollar Bills,” hand-drawn interpretations of U.S. $100 bills that visitors can customize, color, and redesign. “Fundreds” will be on display at the museum, and will later be “donated” to The Fundred Dollar Bill Project as part of a nationwide effort to raise awareness of the dangers that lead poisoning poses for children in America’s inner cities. Chin’s goal is to collect three million Fundred Dollar Bills, or the equivalent of $300 million; the amount needed to make safe every lead contaminated property in New Orleans, so that every child is protected from the metal’s impact on neurological development. 

Project 20 exemplifies the vision of artistic innovation and community engagement that has made the Contemporary Museum a site of groundbreaking exhibitions and programs for 20 years,” said Hofmann. “Our long-time commitment to bringing the most exceptional national and international artists to Baltimore to create new work, respond to the city, and engage with our community continues through the exhibitions, performances, and new commissions planned for Project 20.”

Participation Nation will be on view through April 2010. The next series of Project 20 exhibits, Bearing Witness, will open in May 2010.

Project 20 will be accompanied by a full-color publication that documents the history of the Contemporary Museum, chronicling each of the more than 50 groundbreaking exhibitions presented during the museum’s history. Included in the 100-page book will be archival and rarely-seen installation photos, a comprehensive museum history, and essays highlighting the museum’s most influential projects.

The Contemporary Museum is located at 100 West Centre Street, in Baltimore’s Mt. Vernon Cultural District. Museum hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

For more information about the Contemporary Museum and Project 20, visit

About the Contemporary Museum:

The Contemporary Museum promotes the art and culture of our time by producing and presenting new works, new thinking, and new practices that are immediately relevant. The Contemporary has earned international acclaim for its thought-provoking exhibitions, innovative programming, and unique collaborations with artists, curators, critics, and members of the community.        


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